5 “must have” tools for more connected firefighting
In a previous post on The Last Mile, we looked at some of the large technology trends that are poised to get funding across the nation and transform firefighting in 2022. I also discussed how the Biden Administration – seeing the increased frequency and severity of incredibly damaging wildfires – is looking to build a better prepared, better equipped, and better appreciated firefighting force across the nation to ensure that the country is prepared to fight the increasing wildfire threat.
Ultimately, many of the advanced technologies that I discussed, and that are being embraced in other areas of government – including IoT, Big Data and data analytics, AI, and mesh networking – will invariably be utilized by the firefighting force of the future. However, there are many solutions that are available today that could help make firefighters safer and better prepared for their incredibly dangerous jobs. In fact, many of these solutions and tools are more in reach than ever before, as Congress recently passed six key funding sources that firefighting organizations can use to purchase resilient communications equipment and other essential, life-saving technologies.
Here are five exciting solutions that firefighting organizations and local governments can and should be rolling out to all of their firefighters today:
1) Sonim smart devices – smart devices that can handle the heat
A simple voice radio has long been the communications standard for firefighters in the field, but today’s firefighters don’t have to be limited to voice communication. By embracing smart devices in the field, all first responders and emergency personnel can have access to voice, text, and video communications, and a massive universe of helpful applications.
For example, the CivTAK application can be used by firefighters, police, and other first responders to send text communications, as well as see the locations of all other first responders plotted clearly on a map. This level of situational awareness can make it easier to locate and assist first responders that are in danger, and send additional support or resources.
However, if a smart device is going to be deployed to the field with firefighters, it quite literally needs to be able to handle intense heat. Luckily, equipment manufacturers, such as Sonim Technologies, are working diligently to build devices that can handle the extreme conditions that firefighters face in the field. These incredibly tough mobile devices and accessories are designed to withstand some of the most sadistic situations and still function. Sonim phones are specifically useful for search and rescue teams operating in unpredictable weather conditions, and for firefighters that need their equipment to take a beating and still operate.
A beach safety organization in Florida has an incredible story that illustrates just how resilient Sonim mobile devices can be. According to Erin Luzzi, the company’s Director of Accessories, “…a snorkeler found a [Sonim] XP8 phone that was lost about a year [prior] during a jet ski patrol mission…they let the phone dry out and it still worked.”
Surviving a year submerged in the ocean is a testament to Sonim’s ultra-rugged performance standards, including Non-Incendive Class I, II, III Div 2 ratings, and three-year comprehensive warranty. Watch the video below to see the kind of rigorous testing that Sonim puts its devices through to ensure they’re the toughest on the planet:
2) goTenna Pro Deployment Kit– connectivity off the grid
If smart devices are going to become an essential part of a firefighter’s gear and communications equipment, then they need to work everywhere and every time they’re needed. Part of ensuring a smart device is always available is having a resilient, hardened device like a Sonim device. The other part involves connectivity.
Many wildfires occur in geographically remote, isolated locations where terrestrial networks don’t exist. But a signal can be hard to come by even when fighting a fire near a major city or metropolitan area should the network infrastructure be damaged in the fire. In these instances, a smart device could be useless for a firefighter because it has no connectivity.
The goTenna Pro Deployment Kit contains everything a firefighting organization needs to create a mobile mesh network. By connecting the included goTenna Pro devices to the smart devices of each firefighter, the organization is creating a decentralized network architecture that delivers basic connectivity to every individual without one single point of failure. So, should one of the devices be damaged or destroyed, the network continues to operate.
Using a goTenna Pro in conjunction with their smart device, firefighters can send text communications to each other, and use the CivTAK application to see the locations of every firefighter on a map, all without satellite or cellular connection. This ensures that help is only just a text away, even in the most remote and isolated locations.
The goTenna Pro’s ability to enable comms in even the most isolated and austere of environments has made it a go-to solution that Regulus Global suggests to its customers – which include humanitarian, commercial medical, national security, and defense organizations across the globe. According to the company’s Director of Business Development, Patrick Becker:
“…the ability to communicate clearly and concisely is extremely important to mitigate risk in any operation, whether that be military, law enforcement, or emergency response…mobile mesh can help maintain communication links…in near real-time. It can help re-establish communications where the infrastructure has been completely wiped out by natural disasters…[it] can create an effective communication network while…and provide real-time situational awareness for effective tactical planning. It can also enable search and rescue missions by providing near real-time location and mapping capabilities…”
The goTenna Pro Deployment Kit is especially helpful for teams of 20 or smaller that typically operate on CivTAK. The kit can maintain up to 30 devices.
3) Juggernaut cases and mounts – cases that protect in all conditions
Even the most resilient of smart devices could use the added protection of a hardened case. Also, firefighters already carry so much into the field, so a case that can attach a smart device securely to their body and make it easier to access and operate is essential.
The cases and mounts manufactured by Juggernaut check all of these boxes for firefighters. Available for a wide range of smart devices from the world’s leading device manufacturers, Juggernaut’s cases and mounts are built with protection and functionality as the top priorities.
The company also manufactures hardened cables that ensure smart devices can always be connected to peripherals or charged to meet the needs of firefighters. Included in the company’s wide selection of hardened cables is the goTenna Tether – a hardened cable for connecting goTenna Pro X devices with smart devices.
“I’m very impressed with the capability and performance of the latest smart devices and the range of applications to assist in the many different types of missions our warfighters and responders are dealing with currently and in the future,” said Chris Stalzer of Juggernaut. “Our customers are always looking for the best protection and mounting capabilities for their devices in the smallest form-factor possible. They also want access to all of the devices’ features without any interference from the case or mount.”
Juggernaut’s cases, mounts, and cables ensure that firefighters will always have the connectivity and features of their smart devices within arm’s reach. Watch the video below to see the Juggernaut cases and mounts in action:
4) Mystery Ranch packs – carry comfortably
As we discussed previously, firefighters have to carry a lot of equipment. On the fire line, where wildland fire crews and hotshot crews can spend days or weeks at a time, it’s essential that all of the gear and equipment that they’re carrying – which can often weigh in excess of fifty pounds – can be carried comfortably and without sapping their energy.
There’s a reason why Mystery Ranch uses the hashtag, #BuiltForTheMission. Their sole goal is to build the best load-bearing equipment in the world. Mystery Ranch offers an essential, ruggedized backpack – aptly named the Hotshot – for wildland fire crews. These packs were designed to be different than the traditional pack built for firefighters and built specifically to carry the load required of wildland fire personnel. The Mystery Ranch Fire Line builds packs that fit the individual and are designed to make these personnel as comfortable as possible in uncomfortable situations.
“Over a long season on a Hotshot crew, engine, or helicopter, your fire pack becomes the one thing you can truly call your own. [Mystery Ranch] fire packs are in total contradiction to what fire packs historically were – which was just webbing or line gear without a lot of form and function without a lot of consideration for the weight that was being carried on the [fireline],” said Lucas Mayfield, a former hotshot, and the current Fire Program Manager at Mystery Ranch.
Watch the video below to see Mystery Ranch packs in action:
5) Dark Energy battery pack – never run out of juice
A more connected firefighter needs their device to always be available – so it always needs energy. Dark Energy battery packs are designed to handle the extreme hot and cold – and take mountains of abuse – while still keeping a firefighter’s smart device charged and working.
Dark Energy’s Poseidon Pro battery pack can keep a smart phone charged for upwards of 40 hours. It also charges phones more than twice as fast as traditional charging cables. And it does so in a hardened body that has survived being shot with a shotgun.
Watch the video below to see why Dark Energy calls their charger indestructible: